It all began on a sunny Thursday, the 6th of September, in Sydney, and how far we have come in a little more than 30 days would have certainly been beyond imagination had we not experienced it firsthand. Beginning with the Qantas – Emirates alliance and on to Qatar joining oneworld to the Etihad tie-up with Air France – KLM, the recent events have very possibly shifted the global alliance axis forever.
The initial announcement of an Emirates tie-up with Qantas, was unexpected by many – despite the fact having been a very badly kept secret in the last few days running up to the announcement. Qantas would end its JBA with British Airways, terminate its Frankfurt route, suspend its European services via Singapore and switch those to Dubai. The worst impacted from the announcement, appeared to be British Airways – which had been a faithful partner to the flying Kangaroo for several decades. Initially agreed for a ten year term, the EK-QF partnership was nothing short of revolutionary.
Even before the warmth of that news had gone away, the Emirates chief architect Tim Clark set the stage on fire by announcing that they were discussing a similar potential partnership with American Airlines, another oneworld member.
This raised considerable concerns over the future of the global airline alliance axis – only for it to take an even more revolutionary tale a few days later.
Rumours soon spread of a oneworld alliance event due in New York on the 8th of October. The rumour had it that the chiefs of American Airlines and British Airways would join to announce a new member to the alliance. Who that member would be? Many believed that this would be the long rumoured Qatar Airways partnership coming to fruition, while some others argued that it could well be Etihad or Emirates. And some others believed that it is the announcement of a merger between AA and US Airways, and the subsequent entry announcement of US Airways into oneworld. Proving many others wrong, it became Qatar Airways which was invited to the oneworld alliance on the 8th of October. The airline would be the first of the three largest Middle Eastern airlines to join an alliance and will bring with it fifteen new destinations to the alliance. The same event has elevated oneworld to a new position in the alliance scene, as it now appears to possess much superior connectivity opportunities in comparison to its rivals.
Stealing the show the same evening in another corner of the world was a four-airline-alliance led by unaligned Etihad. Fast growing Etihad together with oneworld member AirBerlin (in which it holds a stake) will link a code-share partnership with SkyTeam members Air France and KLM. The airlines plan to initiate their quad-directional partnership as soon as 28th October, the start of the Winter 2012 scheduling season.
The tie-ups of these giants have quickly made the airline world a different place. A British Airwasy passenger may now begin its journey in Kigali, transit at Doha and reach London. A Qantas passenger may start their journey in Warsaw and connect onto a Qantas Airbus A380 at Dubai. A KLM passenger may now fly on a KLM flight to Abu Dhabi and connect on an Etihad flight onto Seychelles. The consolidation and partnership scene in the industry seems to have taken to a new level, and the next logical partnership now appears to be possible between arch-rivals Emirates and Lufthansa. Emirates now lacks a European partner while both of its large Middle Eastern rivals do, while Lufthansa lacks a Middle Eastern partner which both of its large European rival groups now possess.
The industry partnership axis has shifted, and it may not be over yet…
Disclaimer: The opinions expressed above are the author’s own and do not reflect or represent those of his employers or clients. Every effort has been made to ensure that the facts are completely accurate.